14 juni 2012 | Commentaren (0)

Ten Best London Record Stores

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkelsWhile British director Stephen Frears managed to turn it into an enjoyable film with John Cusack and Jack Black, he made one debatable alteration: Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel High Fidelity (about a record store owner with a passion for making lists) didn’t take place in Chicago but in London. Incidentally, that’s exactly where I ended up recently – accompanying a small group of journalists who got to do an interview with Storm Thorgerson about his summer exhibition in Ostend (and finding just enough time to go record shopping, make a list of my own and try out pretty much every Hipstamatic lens & film).



london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels1. ROUGH TRADE

Lens: Jimmy Film: DreamCanvas

Not the record company, although the shop and the label do share a bit of the same history. Rough Trade set up shop in 1976; quickly turning into a punk haven and a record label that put out albums by Cabaret Voltaire and Stiff Little Fingers. Shop and label split in 1982 – the latter going on to release classic albums from The Smiths and more recently Antony and the Johnsons; the former continuing to sell records. In 2007, when pretty much every big record store was calling it quits, Rough Trade opened a huge depot just off Brick Lane where it started selling new releases (and coffee) – but only the good stuff! Also pretty cool: every other album of the month comes with a Rough Trade exclusive bonus record and the list of in-store gigs is endless.

Rough Trade East, ‘Dray Walk’, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane
Rough Trade West, 130 Talbot Road

Song playing when I walked in: Chromatics – Into the Black
Best album cover according to staff: Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels2. HONEST JON’S

Lens: Watts Film: DC

This small Notting Hill store has been dealing in soul, jazz, reggae, blues, gospel and both African and Asian sounds since 1974 – attracting mainly black DJs and white hipsters. In 2002, one of those hipsters (who lived in the neighborhood and came in all the time to buy weird shit from strange countries) talked the owners of Honest Jon’s Records into starting a label of the same name. Ever since, the imprint has released pretty much everything from chopped-up electronic music to contemporary gypsy tunes – including new stuff from Vladislav Delay, Trembling Bells ft. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Pinch & Shackleton and numerous side projects from Damon Albarn, the white hipster in question.

Honest Jon’s Records, 278 Portobello Road


Song playing when I walked in: Bo Diddley - Gunslinger
Best album cover according to staff: Various – Open Strings: Early Virtuoso Recordings from The Middle East, and New Responses

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels3. PHONICA

Lens: Salvador84 Film: Ina's 1935

“My DJ boyfriend used to drag me to this store and I completely lost my nerves as they let you listen to all the tracks as long as you like. Oh my God, the long hours I waited!” Lesson No. 1: Don’t date DJs. They look cool but they’re actually quite nerdy and boring. Lesson No. 2: If you do decide to date DJs, ignore what that girl on Yelp said and have them take you to Phonica. While they get caught up in the top new electronic vinyl releases, you get to hang in a space age chair or check out a selection of cool new CD compilations for ‘normal’ people.

Phonica Records, 51 Poland Street


Song playing when I walked in: NKC - Fading Floor
Best album cover according to staff: Dobie - Nothing to Fear

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels4. INTOXICA!

Lens: Matty ALN Film: Blanko Freedom13

Precisely what an old and dusty record store should look like: old, dusty and a tad weird. Having said that, a place selling vintage exotica might as well have bamboo furniture and tribal masks hanging on the wall. Other stuff you’ll find in this vinyl kingdom: funk, soul, blues, jazz, reggae, Bollywood soundtracks, spoken word and an extremely rare 1967 pop-up book from Andy Warhol with exclusive photographs of The Velvet Underground for – bargain price, really – £600.

Intoxica, 231 Portobello Road


Song playing when I walked in: The Congos - God's Kingdom Dub
Best album cover according to staff: London Cowboys - On Stage

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels5. JB'S

Lens: Lucas AB2 Film: Dylan

Back in the day, this tiny shop just off Oxford Street used to be a famous soul asylum called Contempo Records. Today, the guy running the place mostly sells ‘60s & ‘70s rock, funk, progressive, punk, new wave, folk and Seria Jazz Nr. 1, a rare jazz recording from Jancsi Körossy selling for just £120. There’s also a section dedicated to ‘Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd’ – and absolutely no mention of ‘David Gilmour’s Pink Floyd’, which I thought was quite funny. Oh, and if you come back at night, you’ll find the coolest bar in town next door. Appropriately called The Bar, it’s where all the night owls and other funky animals flock together till early in the morning.

JB's Records, 36 Hanway Street


Song playing when I walked in: Anne Briggs - The Time Has Come
Best album cover according to staff: U-Roy - Dread In a Babylon

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels6. FLASHBACK

Lens: Lucifer VI Film: Blanko

Truth be told: Flashback doesn’t seem to really specialize in anything – other than darn good music. However, they do have an impressive collection of vintage 7” singles and you’ll also find a large selection of second-hand vinyl at affordable prices. Top selling artists include The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Radiohead, The Smiths, Björk and Frank Zappa. Collectors can also browse through first edition rarities such as Shirley Collins’ album Sweet England, which is selling at £800. Mind you, that’s still a lot cheaper than last year’s priciest sale: the hyper obscure 12” Slay That Dragon from heavy metal band Holocaust. It was sold for £1,300.

Flashback Islington, 50 Essex Road
Flashback Crouch End, 144 Crouch Hill


Song playing when I walked in: The Pelicans - Ain't Gonna Do It
Best album cover according to staff: Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels7. SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE

Lens: John S Film: Blanko

If it’s got soul and it’s any good, expect to find it here: reggae, dub, disco, funk, jazz, hip-hop and UK bass, this place is a true gem for contemporary music lovers who use to pay attention during history class. Sounds of the Universe also sells a nice selection of music books and magazines in the basement, and make sure you check out new releases on the shop’s own label Soul Jazz Records, which seems to be on an endless quest for rare ska, roots, jazz, bossa nova and Afro sounds.

Sounds of the Universe, 7 Broadwick Street


Song playing when I walked in: Dream 2 Silence - Liquid
Best album cover according to staff: Hieroglyphic Being - Shikaakwa

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels8. BM SOHO

Lens: Adler 9009 Film: Blanko

Formerly called Black Market, this small two-floor vinyl store has been supplying DJs with the latest house, techno, minimal, UK funky, electro, drum & bass, dubstep, disco and re-edits since forever (i.e. 1990, which is the same as ‘forever’ in terms of club culture). It still carries an extraordinary amount of new releases and the ‘black’ vinyl wall is simply arresting.

BM Soho, 25 D'Arblay Street


Song playing when I walked in: Glenn Underground - The Wilderness
Best album cover according to staff: Karizma - Collection 1999 - 2011

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels9. SISTER RAY

Lens: Americana Film: Blanko

If you so desperately need to plunder musical history to come up with a name for your store, you might as well steal from the best: Sister Ray takes its name from the seventeen minute The Velvet Underground track. Unsurprisingly, several albums from the legendary New York band can be found in the store but also expect staff to get excited about “a huge jazz vinyl collection in near mint condition that just came in”, about the fact that “that 1967 original Blossom Toes album over there is worth £400” or about the latest electronic music that’s been playing – “it’s one of those days” – all afternoon.

Sister Ray, 34-35 Berwick Street


Song playing when I walked in: Doldrums - Egypt
Best album cover according to staff: The Clash - The Clash

london,londen,best record stores,beste platenwinkels10. RECKLESS

Lens: Tejas Film: DreamCanvas

If you take a good look at the cover of the Oasis album (What's the Story) Morning Glory? you can actually see this place in it (back when it was called differently but already a record store). Granted, Sister Ray is actually more visible in the picture but contrary to Reckless Records (that has the album cover up in its window), they don’t seem to make a big deal out of it. Anyway, lots of second-hand vinyl here (including a £700 first pressing of Nick Drake’s album Five Leaves Left) and a passionate store owner who claims he sells about six to seven The Velvet Underground re-issues a day and advises you to hold on to your CD collection: “One day, those ancient discs will be as hot as vinyl is right now.’

Reckless Records, 30 Berwick Street


Song playing when I walked in: Ornette Coleman - Ramblin'
Best album cover according to staff: The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico

Feel like record shopping in London? Go to eurostar.com to book yourself a seat on one of up to ten trains a day traveling from Brussels to London. Return tickets start at €88 and don’t forget to also purchase a Visitor Oyster Card online (or on the train). It’s a real money/time saver.

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